Senate committee considers Trump's authority to launch nuclear weapons

Cheryl Sanders
November 15, 2017

Going to war is a "heavy responsibility" for elected leaders, and the decision to use nuclear weapons is the "most consequential of all", Sen.

During the hearing, members of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee questioned longstanding presidential authority to deploy nuclear weapons.

During Monday's hearing, Gen. C. Robert Kehler, former commander of Strategic Command, emphasized that a presidential order to use a nuclear weapon must be legal. "The system for decision is created to ensure the president consults with the national security council and his other senior civilian and military advisers and I would expect that to occur in every case where the use of nuclear weapons is contemplated". "Once that order is given and verified, there is no way to revoke it".

Trump notably could not name the components during last year's campaign for the White House.

Trump has countered by calling Corker a "lightweight" who couldn't get re-elected if he ran again in 2018.


One issue under debate was the concept of imminent threat, when the president believes a country poses a sufficient immediate danger for the United States to order a pre-emptive nuclear strike. He said those comments are fueled by Trump's statements about North Korea, including his remark in August that the US could respond to Pyongyang with "fire and fury like the world has never seen".

"The United States military does not blindly follow orders", he said.

Other Democrat colleagues of Mr Cardin said that Mr Trump is so "volatile" it ensured such a move could not be discounted. "There are no checks on the president's authority".

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md. quoted Trump's "fire and fury" comments and threats to "totally destroy" North Korea, saying many interpret the sharp rhetoric "to mean that the president is actively considering the use of nuclear weapons in order to deal with the threat of North Korea". On Nov. 11, he said it was "certainly a possibility" that he could become friends with Kim Jong Un, hours after insulting the North Korean leader on Twitter.

Protesters at the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.


President Trump, who wrapped up a 13-day trip to Asia, previously called Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions a global threat and once warned Kim Jong Un that if North Korea threatened the U.S., America has "military solutions" "locked and loaded".

"I think if we were to change the decision-making process in some way to - because of a distrust of this president, I think that would be an unfortunate precedent", testified Brian McKeon, a former undersecretary of defense under Barack Obama. "It's not the only tool in the toolkit to try to address something like that", Mattis said.

"In the past" Feaver said, "Congress has played a vital role in pushing the Executive Branch to strengthen the nuclear command and control system, and the time may be ripe for another close look".

"One of the things that voters think about" in USA presidential elections, Rubio said, "is whether or not they want to trust him with this capability".

Tuesday's hearing reflected the "exceptional nature" of the present context, said Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from CT.


Feaver, who served as a security adviser under President George W. Bush, appeared before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee that was holding a hearing on the Presidential "Authority to Order the Use of Nuclear Weapons".

Other reports by iNewsToday

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